Spring has finally sprung! Yes, April is the gateway to the gardening season in Zones 4-5. Trees are budding, birds are chirping sweet songs, spring bulbs are poking through the soil, and new signs of life are emerging everywhere.
This is a busy time packed with starting garden prep, carving out new garden beds, edging, pruning, much-anticipated seed starting, and the outdoor planting of cool weather crops. Check out our hearty April Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 for essential information on all you can do in your garden this month to ensure a healthy and abundant garden this year.
Visit Your Local Extension Office
If you haven’t sought out the advice of the experts for your April garden just yet, now is the prime time to visit your local extension office before planting season gets underway. Each State Department of Agriculture has offices set up within local counties to help gardeners and farmers find local garden resources.
These specialized agencies are operated by experts on gardening and landscaping topics and are eager to answer your questions, troubleshoot problems, provide local guidelines, and provide advice and support to all who seek some help in the garden.
- Soil Test: Obtain a sample of your soil and bring it to your local garden extension office or nursery for a soil test before planting time arrives. Experts can help you identify the quality of your native soil and provide recommendations for amending your garden soil.
- Before going to your local extension office or nursery, brainstorm some questions ahead of time. Bring along your garden journal and as you ask gardening questions, jot down suggestions and expert advice.
- Find out about native plants and what grows best in your region.
- Gain valuable planting information detailing when you can start thinking about getting new plants and seedlings in the ground.
- Ask about pruning times for the trees and shrubs in your yard and garden.
- Get advice on how to avoid some of the pest problems that plagued your plants in past years.
Spring Garden Planning
There are still many chilly and rainy days ahead where you can keep working on your garden planning in Zones 4-5. Although, you’ll likely be heading to the yard for some prep and maintenance. Keep your garden journal close at hand and dream of warmer days and fruitful gardens.
- Attend a Horticulture Show! Nothing is more inspirational than seeing a whole arena filled with a gardening extravaganza.
- Grab some new gardening books and magazines. Scour your favorite gardening websites for ideas and tips.
- Use your sketched-out garden design plans and dream boards to figure out where your future plants and seedlings will go.
- Chart seed and plant varieties. Note their planting specifications, days to germination and maturity, and keep notes about what worked well and what was not entirely successful. This chart will help you plan from year to year by knowing when to sow seeds, plant with optimal spacing, when you can expect blooms, and when to harvest your plantings.
- If pests or diseases were a problem for you last season, it’s a great time to research companion plants and spacing provisions to protect and boost your plants’ productivity.
- Decide what you still need to fill unoccupied spaces in your garden beds before it is time to buy them.
- Use your vegetable garden planting charts to guide you on what to plant and when, so you will be ready for planting when warmer temperatures roll in.
- Construct your new raised beds, trellises, and other garden structures indoors, or if you have already constructed them, you can set them in place. Begin filling them with raised bed soil or lots of organic matter and compost.
April Garden Tools and Supplies Assessment
Spring is here, so it is worth repeating on our April Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 that your garden tools should be at the forefront of your mind. It’s time to start using those tools for garden preparations, and you’ll need them working at their best. If you haven’t done so already, assess your tools for sharpening and cleaning needs.
The lawnmower should receive a fluid change as well. It’s best to get all of your gardening supplies in tip-top shape so that when spring rolls in, you are fully prepared for yard and garden work, so you do not have any setbacks.
Check your tools for disrepair signs, tune up and thoroughly clean and sanitize, sharpen blades, and oil up moving parts. These steps will give you confidence for a solid start to the garden season. It is also essential to keep your garden free from diseases that may have plagued your garden last season.
- Start by using steel wool or a metal grill brush to clean any debris off your garden tools.
- Wipe surfaces with a damp rag.
- Use coarse sandpaper to scuff away any signs of rust on metal surfaces.
- Dab vegetable oil onto a rag and wipe metal surfaces.
- Use a piece of sandpaper to slough away any rough or splintering spots on wooden handles.
- Wipe wooden handles down with a rag wet with linseed oil.
Stock Up On Garden Supplies
Spring is an exciting time to shop for garden supplies, containers, and garden accents! Garden centers and nurseries should be putting out this year’s gardening tools and supplies this month. Peruse the aisles and snatch up some of the most sought-after items on your list while the shelves are fully stocked.
- Pick up some organic fertilizer to help wake up your garden beds. Try adding organic fish fertilizer to your compost pile and garden beds to boost soil health, support microbial life, and robustify your plants.
- Need new garden tools, or have you had your heart set on something new? If any tools were beyond repair, have gone missing, or you have longed to acquire, now is the time to do it!
- Shop for garden soil amendments! Once you get your soil test results, you can gather some of the amendments that you need to boost your soil’s performance.
- Indoor seed starting time is here! If you haven’t shopped for seeds yet, you can be sure to have them on time by purchasing them at your local nursery or garden center-the same goes for seed starting supplies.
- Summer bulbs such as Caladium, Iris, Lilies, Hostas, Bleeding Hearts, Dahlias, and more will be fully stocked on store shelves now, so while you cannot plant them in the ground, just yet, you can get a hold of the best selection now. Store them in a cool dark place until next month.
- Bare root plants are also most plentifully stocked at this time. You’ll have the best options to pick from this month. This includes roses, strawberries, berry bushes, fruit trees, rhubarb, and other favorites.
- Pick up a birdhouse and give the birds a safe place to nest for the season. Grab some birdseed and a feeder and care for the wildlife in your yard.
April Garden Maintenance
Spring weather is full of unpredictability in Zones 4-5, but signs are everywhere that your gardens are starting to awaken. It’s the ideal time for beginning some prep and maintenance tasks for your April garden.
- Be aware that the ground is just beginning to soften, and if rain has been prevalent in your area, avoid walking or driving in your garden when the soil is saturated. Compressing the soil with weight will result in soil compaction, leading to many problems in the garden bed.
- If you planted nitrogen-fixing vegetable garden cover crops in your garden bed, those in Zone 5 might be able to start turning them over in the garden bed before they go to seed.
- Pull up any weeds before they get established in the garden bed.
Mulching and Amending the Garden
Stop weeds before they have the chance to take hold. You can stomp out weeds in early spring by adding a couple of inches of mulch to your garden beds. April is a great time to start mulching and amending your garden beds. Once your soil test results are in, add well-decomposed compost and any other necessary soil amendments to help build healthier soil. These actions will bolster your soil and prevent many propagating spring weeds from overtaking your garden before your gardens are in full swing.
Pruning Trees and Shrubs After Winter
April is an excellent time for late winter pruning. Pruning considerations can get confusing at times, especially at this time of year. If you have any doubt on whether or not to prune back a perennial dramatically, simply let it be and prune it after flowering. Do some more research on your plant variety and gain more insight for the next time around. This is an excellent question for an expert at your local extension office.
- Prune away branches in your April garden that have succumbed to winter damage before the new shoots of spring emerge.
- Prune grapevines and fruit trees.
- It’s time to do a hard pruning of dormant woody perennials and dormant ornamental grasses. You can be aggressive about your pruning with these dormant plants and only leave the first bud at the plant’s base. This applies only to plants that produce blooms on new stems.
- Many perennial shrubs have already formed buds for next season’s blooms. It is not the time to prune these shrubs unless you are only growing them for greenery or hedge; otherwise, you risk cutting away their blooming potential. If your plantings are purely for greenery and privacy, you may trim the bushes’ tips to shape them; Boxwoods are an example of these green shrubs.
- Some of the flowering shrubs to leave intact at this time include Forsythia, Rhododendron, Azalea, Viburnum, Daphne, and Weigela.
It’s time to start seeds indoors! This is one part of the April Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 that I’m sure you are excited about starting! Here are some of our recommendations for what to get started planting. As always, consult the local extension office in your county for additional guidance.
Indoor Seed Starting
Before starting seeds indoors, it is essential to identify your planting zone’s last frost date. This date varies with each zone and is just an estimation. The last frost date is critical because this is how you will calculate what you can start planting indoors by counting the seed maturation days backward from the last estimated frost date so transplants will be ready for outdoor planting.
- Zone 4 – The last frost date ranges from April 24 – May 12
- Zone 5 – The last frost date ranges from April 8 – May 1
Zones 4-5 can start seeds for:
You can begin planting warm-season crops indoors in early April. These include, but are not limited to:
Flower seeds can also be started indoors at this time.
Force Branches Indoors
Freshen up your home’s interior with some blooms by pruning a few branches from some flowering shrubs and trees and forcing their flowers indoors. Make a clean cut and arrange the stems in a vase of clean water to force an early bloom.
The following make great branch sources:
- Flowering Cherry or Pear Trees
- Pussy willow
- Flowering Fruit Trees
Outdoor Spring Garden Planting
The exciting time of outdoor planting has arrived, at least for cool-season crops! Keep a close eye on the forecast, as plants may need the protection of a row cover or grow domes to protect them from freezing. Check out some of the April Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 ideas for outdoor garden planting.
- Begin direct-sowing beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, peas, and spinach.
- Plant pansies, snapdragons, penstemon, and other cool-weather flora.
- Later in the month, plant potatoes and move cauliflower and broccoli transplants outdoors to a cold frame. Be sure to harden them off in a protected area before planting them outdoors.